Monday, December 30, 2013

Caldecotts and Caldenotts

People who love children’s literature often enjoy trying to guess who will win the winners of the biggest awards given annually to the best children’s books: the Caldecott Medal, given to the best-illustrated children’s book, and the Newbery Medal, given to the best-written children’s book. The winners of the medals are announced in January at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference and it’s a Big Deal since the medals are considered the Academy Awards of the kid lit world. Hundreds of librarians – including me -- will be on hand early on the morning of January 27 in a conference hall in Philadelphia to watch the award announcements in person, and thousands of others will watch via the Internet. While the Caldecott and Newbery medals are the big kahuna awards, there also are lots of other great children’s literature awards, including the Sibert Medal, given to the best non-fiction book for kids, the Printz Award, given to the best book for teens, the Geisel Award for the best beginning reader, etc.

Before the award announcements, however, there’s always a lot of buzz in librarian circles about the possible Caldecott and Newbery winners. I’m gathering up some of the possibilities now and will post on them in a couple of weeks. It’s important to note, however, that the awards process is top-secret. The choices are made by  committees of librarians – one committee for each award – and the committees meet literally behind closed doors.  In fact, members of the awards committees are forbidden from ever – I mean, ever! – revealing what goes on behind those doors.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t have a lot of fun guessing about what some of the medal-worthy possibilities might be. In fact, many libraries hold their own “mock” Caldecott and Newbery medal discussions (look for an upcoming Tales from the Library on my library’s Caldecott Club, a kind of “mock-mock” Caldecott discussion group). And there are some great blogs out there in which people have serious yet entertaining discussions about the literary and artistic merits of books that might be Caldecott or Newbery possibilities. Two of my favorites are Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog  and Calling Caldecott. They’re both worth peeking at; if nothing else, you’ll learn about what librarians and other children’s literature experts consider some of the top kids’ books that were published this year. Heavy Medal’s discussion shortlist for their mock 2014 Newbery has a great mix of books, as does the Calling Caldecott list.

One more thing to add to the mix: to win the Newbery or Caldecott medal, the author or illustrator has to either be American or live here, and the books also must be published in the United States. So there’s always a whole bunch of books that are fabulous, but are ineligible for either award because they weren’t published here or weren’t written by an American or U.S. resident. One of my favorite picture books from last year, for example, was “Press Here,” written and illustrated by Herve Tullet; he’s French, and lives in Paris, so the book wasn’t eligible for the Caldecott Medal. In a recent Calling Caldecott blog post titled “Ineligible Internationals,” school librarian Robin Smith discussed this issue, and also pointed to an effort designed to highlight some of the ineligible picture books. It’s called a “Mock Caldenott” and it is a truly creative idea. We might try it at our library next year!

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